A View from Here: Global mission in a post-pandemic world webinar

First published on: 29th January 2021

 

A View from Here: Global mission in a post-pandemic world

 

USPG hosted a webinar on 28th January on the topic of how mission has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the lessons we can learn from this. The session was chaired by the Rt Rev’d Dr Joanna Penberthy, USPG trustee and Bishop of the Diocese of St David’s in the Church of Wales. Speakers included:  Rev’d Duncan Dormor, General Secretary of USPG, Dr Cathy Ross, Head of Pioneer Mission Leadership at the Church Mission Society, and the Rev’d Dr Muthuraj Swamy, Director of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide.

The event was introduced by Rev’d Canon Richard Bartlett, Director of Mission Engagement at USPG. Rev’d Canon Bartlett said: “It’s a real joy to have so many people joining us. Today, we are gathered with partners, friends, supporters and volunteers from India, the United States, Kenya, Pakistan, Australia, the Philippines, Brazil, Zambia, Ghana, Liberia, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Barbados and so many other places”.

Following this, the Rev’d Duncan Dormor spoke about “the view from here” in two different but connected ways, “a view from here as in the middle of this pandemic and a view from here as in a view from Britain”. Rev’d Dormor then discussed the issue that churches in the UK face, in terms of how they can stand in solidarity whilst coming from a post-imperial perspective. He asked, “in the midst of richness and diversity, of context and mission across the Anglican Communion, how can we be alongside one another? Rejoicing, sharing and facilitating the creativity of mission. In the face of such diversity, how can we express our solidarity as Anglicans, as Christians?”. Rev’d Dormor then discussed the contrast between exclusive national narratives and the Christian call to universalism, touching upon the poem that Amanda Gorman wrote for President Biden’s inauguration, The Hill We Climb. Rev’d Dormor said the poem was “deeply infused, not only by the Civil Rights movement, but also by a Christian universalism grounded in the Old Testament prophets”, and that this universalism also “underpinned institutions devoted to international cooperation, like the United Nations and Oxfam”.

In the wake of rising nationalism, Rev’d Dormor asked: “what of the churches? How should or could they express a unity or solidarity against this backdrop?”. Rev’d Dormor then discussed the Epistle to Diognetus, in which the writer “defines a citizenship that is not grounded in any earthly political order” but rather in the notion that “every foreign country is their homeland and every homeland is foreign”. This means that we are “called to a global citizenship within transnational community”. The Rev’d Dormor said “the Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us of our own vulnerability in an unparalleled way” and that “ we need to engage in campaigning for a fairer distribution of resources”. Rev’d Dormor also said that “we are in a crisis but there is no more important issue upon which we can stand alongside each other in solidarity and in mission than the cause of the climate crisis”. This is because “we are all drawn together by the air we breathe, the water we drink and the earth beneath our feet”. Rev’d Dormor emphasised the global nature of the issue, saying that solidarity was crucial “whether we speak from the lungs of the earth in the Amazon, or for the islands of Oceania threatened by the rising waters”.

Dr Cathy Ross discussed quotes by John V. Taylor, former General Secretary of the Church Mission Society. Dr Ross discussed the importance of imagination, touching on the idea of “an adventure of the imagination”, and saying that “if we do not use our divine imagination, then we may be embarrassed by what the world can imagine”. Dr Ross also discussed the notion of boundaries, saying that “the world is the church’s milieu”, “the missionary frontier is our doorstep” and that we should embark on “the long trek into the terra incognita of Christ”. Dr Ross emphasised the importance of sustainability in our actions, saying that we should “cherish the weakness of limited means” and that “enough is enough” in terms of the damage we have done to the climate.

Rev’d Dr Muthuraj Swamy then presented his thoughts on mission in a global pandemic, discussing the “reality, response and responsibility” of the pandemic. Rev’d Dr Swamy said that “the pandemic has affected the entire world, but not equally”, and that “unequal structures” had been “reinforced by inhuman forces”. As an illustration of this, Rev’d Dr Swamy talked about the image of thousands of Indian citizens having to walk many miles to get home. Discussing the response to the pandemic, Rev’d Dr Swamy emphasised the fact that “a global pandemic needs a global response” and that “healing in one part of the world is insufficient”. The Rev’d Dr Swamy said that “as global Christians in global mission, we have a responsibility to the other” and that “Christians have a duty to look after everyone, as we are all made in God’s image”. Rev’d Dr Swamy concluded his talk with the powerful statement that “radical openness to the other is integral for Christian mission”.

Questions ranged from topics such as vaccine nationalism to the contrast between rhetoric and action, ending with the speakers describing their ideal visions of heaven. All three speakers drew on the image of Revelation 7:9, in which there is “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb”. The speakers also emphasised the importance that “heaven begins from here”, in relation to the current global context.

The webinar ended with the Rt Rev’d Joanna Penberthy giving a blessing in Welsh and then all attendees saying the Grace in their first language.

 

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